Do botanical gardens make a suitable visit for a 2 year old? They do if the gardens are small and actively encourage picking of their vital assets for big aromatic inhalations.
Giardino Officinale is a petite family-run botanical gardens in Italy, nestled inland from the Green and Blue flag Adriatic beach resort of Roseto degli Abruzzo, and a little treasure that is used by local schools to introduce children to the world of herbs and organic farming. How did we get the idea that a morning exploring a botanical garden may suit a 2 year old? Perhaps him yanking basil, sage and mint leaves daily and sticking a leaf up his nose and walking around and exclaiming yum! Our elderly neighbours thought these repeated performances hysterical; being in Italy where all things lead to food they automatically declared that he would be a great cook, that this type of aroma love is universal – would he have got the same reaction back in the UK? I somehow doubt it…
Although it was early October when we visited these free gardens, the best time for colour being late spring, fragrant aromas were still to be sniffed from the 300 plant varieties as soon as we got out the car. We were greeted by the owner’s uncle and three small and friendly doggies who A loved. By the garden shop was a laden pomegranate tree which A got to see, stretch up and feel whilst on shoulders; the pomegranates were in their mini rainbow stage on their progression to ripeness and a change from the usual apples that grow around us.
The owner Sig Torzolini showed us round the organic gardens that he’d begun some 20 years ago. Now this part could be difficult if you don’t speak Italian but you’re free to wander around without the tour and hey if you are trying to please a toddler it’s not so important. Plants are tagged and most names are very similar in English or just take a sniff to work out what they are.
A ran amok down the soft landing grass and soft mossy verbena paths, picking away although he found the lily pond the most interesting, which is semi-secured by rails to stop youngsters. After being away from the UK for 6 months it was wonderful that he could sniff a curry plant. Curry isn’t something I’ve made a lot out here in rural Abruzzo, as ginger isn’t stocked in any of my local rural greengrocers and requires a drive to the coast to source. The 5 varieties of Rosemary that were still in flower proved to be such a bee and butterfly magnate, so the gardens were the perfect place to practice zzzzz sounds too..
We finished in the shop with, pepped up and cooled down with some freshly made home-made Peppermint Cordial which we all loved! Peppermint isn’t something that A has really taken to and he’s not given cordials but oh how he lapped it up, two of his very best ‘more please’ that had the owner smiling. There was also tasting of their grape juice and lemon balm tonic.
Giardino Officinale Italian Peppermint Cordial Recipe
Dissolve a kilogram of sugar in a litre of water and add drops of organic Peppermint Essential Oil. Leave in the fridge and dilute with water according to taste
What did Mamma Learn?
Not all Rosemary is the same, many are used purely for the oil they create; funnily enough the owner proclaimed these were the English varieties which were too tough to use to cook with, which explained a lot of nasty spiky things I’d served up using my last plant back home, however it is perfect for diffusing into oil! Sig Torzolini’s personal favourite is Majorca Pink.
Apparently Rosemary is a great oil to add into a diffuser if your child has a head cold to relax them and counter headaches.
Geranium oil is reportedly superb added to cakes and pastry creams. The leaves can be used to flavour sugar which I think would then be divine afterwards sprinkled on pancakes! I’ve already put some leaves from mine into the sugar pot. I can’t wait to try this geranium-flavoured pastry cream (custard), could they make it sound even more delicious?? It could be the ultimate way to bring some Mediterranean sunshine into some shop bought croissants on a Sunday morning when I am back in the UK this winter.
If you visit, try their heritage Saragolla pasta range made from ancient grain exported originally from ancient Egypt and whose very modern cousin is Kamut. Sarga means yellow and golo yellow corn; the wheat is healthier than its modern day cousins, with higher amounts of protein, lipids and minerals. The nuttiness puts the bland supermarket stuff into the shade and at €2 a pack cheaper than the artisan pasta in the supermarket.
© Photographs: Sam Dunham | Lucciola.me, All Rights Reserved